Millennials are not the problem. It is all on us.

The origin of various problems associated with millennials is that we still believe they are anyhow different than any other generation before. They are not.

Written by Jeremi Jak

9 months ago

They say we have a crisis with millennials entering work environment. They say we’re self-absorbed, narcissistic and demanding. They say we don’t change the way they want us to. They say we can’t focus and we don’t deliver expected results. And they say it’s a “millennials crisis”. I say it’s bullshit.


 

We are all the same.

The origin of various problems associated with millennials is that we still believe they’re anyhow different than any other generation before. They’re not.

In fact, data shows the opposite, proving that features we tend to attribute to “millennials”, are features of age group rather than generations, and that we’ve all been through similar in our 20s or 30s.

Behaviour changes with age and is closely connected to values and priorities we have at different stages of our lives — being young adult requires proving oneself and finding own place in private and professional life, thus we are naturally more materialistic and self-absorbed, it’s simply required by the situation.

We all know the stereotype of a “teenager”: annoying, uneasy to understand and communicate with, doing pretty dumb unexplainable stuff. Well, let me remind you: we’ve all been there too, and at that moment, all of our actions made perfect sense to us. “Millennials” are like“teenagers” — just a weird stage of our lives, why do we try to perceive their attributes as a generational thing so hard?

The core of being a human is always the same though, and it’s worth to remember, that no matter the age, we all strive to achieve the same:

  • certainty (relates to comfort and safety),
  • variety (new, different development opportunities),
  • significance (we all want to feel important),
  • love and connection (we want to be cared for and care about),
  • growth (we change),
  • contribution (we want to give back)

 

 

If not we, then what else has changed?

We changed the way we work though, I’d have to be blind not to see it. We don’t dress the same, we change employers more often than the previous generations, we demand more and we are not afraid to speak out if there’s anything we don’t like. But it is not because we changed any of our core, human values, it is because the environment has evolved.

Access to information, lowest unemployment rate, access to education, social (r)evolution, social security system (which is a quite new invention, let me remind you) — it all has influenced the relations between the employee and the employers.

If a person has the social security (if anything bad would happen) and is able to find a new job quickly (and he/she is able to check it in real time thanks to access to information), then he/she is more likely to speak about the problems in his current job, or quit, rather than 20 or 30 years ago, when these capabilities were narrowed in comparison to present.

And this is, as I understood from many conversations I had, something a lot of managers fear. Change has never been easy, but at the same time, it has never been easier. Having the honest feedback from our employees is a threat only to stereotypes and outdated schemes, and is a great opportunity for us to change the way we work for better (where better might mean different things: updating inefficient workflow, creating more moms-friendly or simply more human environments).

 

 

If we are the same, then do we want the same?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, and due to environment evolution we can finally speak about it in an honest way.

Source: Harvard Business Review Research 

 

If we’d take a look at research done by Gallup “How Millennials Want to Work and Live.” we can observe, that all of the employees needs are strictly connected with universal, core needs that we all have as humans:

  • certainty — we want a stable job that will secure our finances,
  • variety — we want to do things we’re passionate about,
  • significance — we want our voice to be heard,
  • love and connection — we don’t want to work with sexists bosses,
  • growth — we want development opportunities,
  • contribution — we want our job to matter.

If we observe any change in our offices, it is not because millennials are any different than baby boomers — it is because they have the right environment that supports their needs and rights. And it is we, employers, who need to adjust, not the other way around.

 

 

Let’s stop talking about a crisis that doesn’t exist, let’s talk about solutions.

My dear friend, a great ethnologist, told me once that people have a tendency to find problems everywhere, but in themselves. Therefore I state the question: what if the problems we face today are just the obvious results of what we, as managers, did yesterday? What if the problems we experience with millennials are just a result of a crisis, not its source? It is a fair question, and finding the answer can ultimately help us all observe, evaluate and create a better, more humane work environments.

 

 

This short piece is a result of a discussion I had a pleasure to participate in, next to amazing Agnieszka Czarnecka (HAYS) and Krzysztof Tarka (TES), in which we talked about millennials and their impact on work environments (thank you guys!). Great “thank you” goes to organizers of the “Executive Summit” event — Michał, Jarek, Gosia and Karolina from Mindspace Warsaw.

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